AIHEC BIRCH Overall Core
The vision of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s (AIHEC) “Building Indigenous Research
Capacity in Health” (BIRCH) project is sovereign Tribal Nations asserting full ownership, direction, and control
of the health research needed to help their people grow healthy and strong. Implementing new programs in the
37 TCUs across the country, AIHEC will provide additional resources for American Indian and Alaska Native
(AIAN) students to pursue coursework and careers that will enable them to act as healthcare providers and
researchers. This project provides a comprehensive approach to growing a networked community of AIAN and
non-Native researchers, educators, and community practitioners to implement traditional knowledge practices
in addressing AIAN health issues and continuously improve Native health and health research practices and
The lack of tribal healthcare researchers and providers perpetuates health disparities and a lack of equity in
tribal communities. Furthermore, studies show that communities with tribal healthcare providers and
researchers have a higher treatment adherence and fewer mortalities or serious illnesses. Promoting the
advancement of AIAN students will not only benefit the students. Still, it will also lead to healthier tribal
communities, increased compliance with healthcare visits and interventions, participation in clinical trials, and a
reduction in the primary causes of illness and mortality such as diabetes, substance use disorders, injuries,
homicide, and suicide.
The long-term goals of the project are: To expand a community of Indigenous research practice in
health/health sciences at the nation’s TCUs; to establish TCUs as essential tribally-centered components of the
national health sciences research and education infrastructure; to improve the quality of health services
provided to AIANs using a science-based empirical approach to intervention development and evaluation that
is relevant to Native peoples and communities and based on core tribal values, cultures, and traditions; to
expand the TCU component of the health research and education career pipeline to recruit, support, and
provide critical linkages for AIAN students to pursue health careers; to empower tribes and tribal communities
to develop and control their research agenda and connect that research to tribal values and needs, and to
promote the integration of Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge.
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